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French foreign policy

Publié le July 31, 2012
Hearing of M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs, before the National Assembly Foreign Affairs Committee (excerpts)
Paris, July 17, 2012


Given France’s situation, our comprehensive strategy and our foreign policy must be dependent on the achievement of one objective: the country’s recovery, especially its economic recovery.

(…) France is an influential power. That’s the concept which must guide our action.

This influence stems from elements which are disparate but which, brought together, define France’s uniqueness and universality: our status as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council; the nuclear weapons we possess; our ranking as the world’s fifth-largest economic power; our language, which is shared by several hundred million speakers and which, in the near future – 2050 – will be spoken by 700 million people on the African continent alone; and the principles we refer to, such as respect for human rights and respect for the law, our international – not to say internationalist – vision, the fact that our views don’t reflect solely France’s interests, we care about universalism; we have special links with a whole series of countries and a special position vis-à-vis the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

This influence greatly exceeds that suggested by the mere hard facts, our population of 60 million and our economic power.

Thirdly, we have to give priority to the long-term view and coherence. Even though international life is marked by crises which must be addressed, foreign policy must take the long-term view.

Fourthly, our priorities in specific areas are none other than the great goals and principles we believe in and which rightly identify France: the quest for peace, security, international regulation, respect for human rights and sustainable development.

Furthermore, we have geographical priorities: our close relations with very major powers such as the United States of America – with whom we are allies, without being aligned – and Russia, a major partner with whom we have built a special relationship over the past decades; our membership of the European Union, even though France can defend unique positions in this framework; and support for the developing countries.

Additionally, our country has certain characteristics: we want to maintain close relations with Brazil, Russia, India and China – the BRICs – but also with the “emerging middle powers”, quite a heterogeneous group including countries such as Turkey, Indonesia and Colombia. We must establish a doctrine and adopt a special attitude and language towards those countries.

Among the geographical priorities, I’ll also mention the African continent, which – whatever people say about it, and despite the list of crises – is a continent of the future. France must have a special, strong policy towards Africa in all its diversity and in its entirety.

Finally, I’ll mention the Euro-Mediterranean issue, beyond the form it took through the Union for the Mediterranean. We must promote a “Euro-Mediterranean”. Given her geographical position and the changes taking place, France must have a special relationship with the region. I received a very warm welcome yesterday from the Algerian authorities and by President Bouteflika, whom I thank. I’ll soon have the opportunity to go to a few neighbouring countries.

To implement the priorities I’ve mentioned, our foreign policy must rest on two pillars: economic diplomacy and cultural diplomacy in the broad sense – educational, scientific and cultural.

Regarding the former, I’ve been struck by how far our relative position has deteriorated since I left my last government post 10 years ago. Given our difficult situation and the direction we risk going in, our first objective must, I repeat, be economic recovery, and our diplomacy must be at the service of this objective. In a few weeks’ time, I’ll propose a number of actions coordinated with those of other ministries to “beef up” our economic diplomacy.

Regarding the latter, France has – does anyone need reminding? – the largest cultural network in the world. It’s characterized by its diversity – schools, Alliances françaises, cultural institutes – but is a crucial asset that mustn’t be separated from the economic aspect. (…)

In this regard, I’d like to emphasize the professionalism of our staff. To conduct her foreign policy, France has the good fortune to have high-calibre, competent, dedicated men and women who do this job because they’ve chosen it, and under often very difficult conditions in the four corners of the globe. (…)

I intend to rely on the four ministers delegate in particular to ensure the economic dimension of our diplomacy is better taken into account.

To finish, I’ll mention a few topical subjects that are mobilizing both you and me: Syria; Mali and more generally the Sahel; Afghanistan, which we’ll come back to in a few days’ time when you examine the bill authorizing ratification of the friendship treaty signed in January; Iran, less present in the news but no less of a looming threat; the European issues you mentioned, Madam President; and finally, the Israeli-Palestinian issue, which lies at the root of many other conflicts.

On this last subject, France is in a favourable situation. On the one hand, the Palestinians place very great trust in us and we have good relations with Mr Mahmoud Abbas, who comes to France frequently. On the other, the Israeli government, currently in a position of strength, regards the current French government as one of its special interlocutors, alongside the United States. (…)./.